AT HOME MAGAZINE

Nurturing family ties: a new modern farmhouse nestles nicely into nature

Overlooking the living area, the upstairs loft, with a cork floor and a design wall for quilting, at left, “is my space,” says Randy’s spouse. “This is where I come and play. There’s tons of light in here.” (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times/TNS)
Overlooking the living area, the upstairs loft, with a cork floor and a design wall for quilting, at left, “is my space,” says Randy’s spouse. “This is where I come and play. There’s tons of light in here.” (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times/TNS)
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BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. — Everywhere you look — out every window, off every deck, even from the bathroom — there is something meaningful just outside this new modern farmhouse on Bainbridge Island. Ferns. Trees. Meadows. Wildlife. History. Family.

From here, in the gracefully unobtrusive home Randy shares with his spouse, he can see the place where his father grew up. And where his brother lives now. And all the resonant memories of a childhood entrenched in nature.

“My grandparents lived across the street,” Randy said. “We’d come down here all the time. There was a prime native blackberry patch; all the berries were over a pile of logs. We would pick gallons. My grandmother would make the most unbelievable blackberry pies. There was pretty much a thicket down here, and an orchard — plum, cherry, apples — really, really old trees. ... Our family owned 40 acres. All of these pieces were given to the kids in 1985.”

Randy’s share, nearly 2 acres, stayed wild for decades. And then it almost went to someone else.

The couple, living in Sammamish, hadn’t seen Randy’s land for a while by the time their oldest child went off to school.

“Neither of our sons decided to go to inexpensive colleges, so we put the property on the market,” Randy said. “We were taking (our son) to Harvey Mudd College, his first year, and somebody bid on it. They said, ‘We need you to sign and fax something.’ We said no.”

Too emotional. Too sudden.

“The Realtor took it off the market,” Randy said. “We got back, and we started walking through and seeing big trees and the cedar grove, the fern glen. No way we could sell that. We just hung on to it. Finally, we were able to pull it off.”

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Architect Julie Campbell of CTA Design Builders understood the magnitude of all that meaning — and built on it.

Inspired by Randy’s in-laws’ 1962 “classic midcentury” home; a wishlist wrapped up in wood, windows and a wealth of indoor-outdoor opportunities; and this decidedly rural setting, Campbell designed “an intentionally small, simple house, drawing on Bainbridge Island historical references: simple farm structures; Japanese rural-dwelling influences, due to that unique aspect of the island’s history; and including the warmth and connection to nature that Craftsman architectural elements can offer — a melding of the styles, the ‘craft’ of Craftsman.”

There’s a lot of meaning inside this new modern farmhouse, too.

The slate hearth below the steel fireplace was a chalkboard from Randy’s parents’ house. The door to the pantry holds a window from his grandmother’s farmhouse. Campbell designed the charming, country-living must-have mudroom around a bench carved with the initials of Randy and his brother.

And, Campbell said, “There’s so much wood, and big beams. The cedar ceiling came from the couple of trees that were felled to create a little space in the woods.”

This is not a huge house, but it is airy, and spacious, and smart — simply perfect for two retired empty-nesters with lifelong island ties.

“With only 2,200 square feet, all the living spaces are open and connected,” said Campbell. “The house has been designed so that the owners can age in place, with wide corridors and doorways, a one-floor living area, a step-free entry and an abundance of natural light.”

With the master suite on the ground floor and an easy-access shower instead of a tub, they certainly could live just on the first level — but then they’d be missing out on the upstairs loft: a full-time quilting workspace; part-time guest area; and permanent, perfect viewpoint, over the living room, out generous glass in every direction and into the nature Randy has loved since childhood.

“That’s what I love about this property,” Campbell said. “The landscape has so many types of view aspects. Looking out gives a different quality from every room.”

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